The Bay of Biscay forms a gentle “u” between the southwest shores of France (right) and the Iberian Peninsula (bottom). On April 29, 2005, the brilliant blue and green swirls of a phytoplankton bloom filled the entire bay. Phytoplankton—tiny ocean plants that grow in the sunlit surface waters of the ocean—thrive in areas where cold water is pushed to the surface. The cold water, rushing up from the ocean depths, carries with it nutrients that had settled on the ocean floor, providing fertilizer for the surface plants. In these circumstances, the plants flourish, forming large blooms that are visible from space. The air above the bay is riddled with the thin white lines of cloud (contrails) left by the numerous jets that cross the bay each day.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image on April 29, 2005. The high-resolution image provided above is at MODIS’ maximum resolution of 250 meters per pixel. The MODIS Rapid Response Team provides the image in additional resolutions.